Dear Campus Community:
When I came back to lead the College of Charleston, I did so out of deep devotion to my alma mater and with the intent to elevate our academic and student experience and make sure our university is around for another two centuries. I’ve worked tirelessly with members of our senior leadership team to ensure our campus is a more tolerant, diverse, inclusive, and welcoming community. The racial incident that occurred a few weeks ago is deeply painful and a stark reminder to us all that there is always progress to be made.
Earlier this week, I met with several students to discuss the campus climate, their experiences, and how we – together – can build a better, more unified College of Charleston. Our conversation was honest and enlightening, and I walked away with a deeper understanding of ways to improve our institution.
This week, I also was made aware of a list of recommendations that were generated by a group of students regarding actions to take to make the College a more inclusive and welcoming university. The leadership team and I have discussed them, and we will continue to do so, but I want to provide an update on our initial thoughts.
I embrace all three of the following student recommendations, which I think are important initiatives that will help foster a better campus climate and help us be a stronger College of Charleston community.
First, it was recommended that the College should address its Student Code of Conduct regarding acts of bullying. Dean of Students Jeri Cabot began a review of the Code of Conduct this summer. The Division of Student Affairs has been soliciting input all semester long from the Student Government Association and the Honor Board and will seek broad-based input from more students through focus groups in the spring. We plan to have a revised Code of Conduct implemented for the start of Fall 2018.
Second, the students asked for the creation of a Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT), which is something several universities have in place. Most BIRTs around the country assist universities in a coordinated response to bias-related incidents and situations that may impact campus climate. Executive Vice President of Student Affairs Alicia Caudill and Chief Diversity Officer Rénard Harris are already working with a group of campus leaders, including students, to research this initiative, come up with a proposal to implement a BIRT at the College, and secure the appropriate approvals. Our deadline to have all this work done is in Spring 2018.
Lastly, the students asked for a diversity and cultural sensitivity training module to be mandatory for all undergraduate students, similar to AlcoholEdu. All incoming freshmen would be required to take the training module beginning Fall 2018. I’ve tasked Provost Brian McGee, Dr. Caudill, and Dr. Harris to move forward with an implementation plan in coordination with the Faculty Committee on Academic Standards, Admissions, and Financial Aid. I’ve set an expectation for Dr. McGee to provide final approval of the module’s contents in Spring 2018.
We – as a university – are a constant work in progress. Change, as we know all too well, is incremental; it’s something you build on every day; it’s something you make a priority; and it’s something you follow through on with action, not just words.
Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is something in which we all play a part. We are all in this together, and I’ll continue to work with student leaders, faculty, and staff to improve our university.
Glenn F. McConnell ’69
President, College of Charleston